Dissolving [in]tangible cultural heritage: exploring material performative endurance in a locus of temporal transition
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date27/11/2020
Kartalou, Nikolia Sotiria
This thesis investigates and extends the concept of intangible cultural heritage in order to dissolve the normative and static image of tangible heritage fostered by conservation practices that promote spectacle-heritage. By understanding cultural expressions as processes of constant becoming—as opposed to framed outcomes—this research study aims to contribute to a theoretical discourse on material performative endurance in the field of architectural theory. Furthermore, it seeks to provide tools for unveiling the concealed heritage of a locus and to propose a theoretical framework for opening up new fields of enquiry and design in historic settings. The study seeks to examine the ways in which the intangible state of architectural heritage can be articulated and revealed through a discourse and a practice located on the borderline between conservation and architectural design. Current conservation practices posit and frame the subject of architectural heritage within criteria that correspond to its normative image—i.e. footprint or façade—and thus, fix the past and emphasise the solid and tangible. In this sense, the qualities that contribute to the shaping of cultural heritage as a continuous anticipation of creative expressions, are underrated. In other words, the established ideology of conservation, approaches the sensed or seen cultural heritage of the present, and fails to consider its un-sensed and unseen adaptive character. This thesis touches upon the aforementioned lacuna of heritage discourse and understands cultural manifestations within a hereditary cumulative process of continuous becoming. In opposition to a teleological model of thought, associated with fixed and framed outcomes, the intangible here is introduced as a flux of versatile processes that contribute to a constant material making. In order to unveil this quality of material heritage and examine the tangible-intangible outcomes of human creativity, the thesis proposes an experimental approach between theory and praxis and a hybrid research methodology. The section of theory advances a threefold conceptual apparatus and enunciates the intangibility of physical heritage as a multiplicity of people, their practices, and the outcomes of their cultural manifestations in time and space. Firstly, Tim Ingold’s notion of the meshwork is employed to convey the interrelations between urban artefacts and people (Ingold; 2007). Secondly, Michel Serres’ concept of noise is articulated to address the resonance of a locus’ time-states within its tangible place (Serres; 1995). Thirdly, Michel Foucault’s heterotopia offers a framework to examine the locus as a quasi-space where all possibilities are present (Foucault; 1986). The conceptual apparatus tests the hypothesis in praxis at a site of temporal transition, where place and memory are entangled. Chambers Street is selected as the locus of examination due to its complex transitional condition and as part of the long urban history and development of the city of Edinburgh. The research utilises experimental techniques, as well as tools for analysis of archival sources, documented evidence and past architectural manifestations as these have been practised in Chambers Street over the last four centuries. The interplay between theory and praxis is a recursive method which enables a way to ‘unlock’ the locus beyond its established footprint and façade, and to contextualise its material performative endurance. The analysis-through-drawing aims to demonstrate that the locus, rather than being a static cultural product, is variable, accumulating within its presence all past states of interventions with equal value. Thus, this thesis opens up fields of possibilities for future architectural practices as components of a constantly becoming heritage.